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Michigan Avenue’s Johnson Publishing Building heads to Landmarks

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The former home of Ebony and Jet magazines could one day become a Chicago Landmark


Yesterday, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks began the formal process of reviewing the former Johnson Publishing office tower at 820 S. Michigan Avenue for official Chicago Landmark designation, the mayor’s office announced. Completed in 1971, the building not only represented the city’s once mighty position as a publishing powerhouse, but as the home of Ebony and Jet magazines, the modernist high-rise was a beacon of Chicago’s African American business community.

The planning and design of the building also represents the ethos of Johnson Publishing as the tower was designed by John Warren Moutoussamy, an African American architect who studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. According to the city, to this day, the building was the first and remains the only high-rise in downtown Chicago designed by an African American.

Photo courtesy of Lee Bey

While the tower features a stoic Brutalist interior, the original offices of Johnson Publishing were colorful and outfitted with modernist finishes and furnishings. Spanning 110,000 square feet, the building is now owned and occupied by Columbia College. In June 2016, Columbia College announced its intentions to sell the building.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is expected to make a recommendation later this year.